As you roll on down the road in your vehicle, you’re using all of your senses to react to the environment around you. Because you’re alert to the roadway, you can react to most anything that occurs around you that creates a hazard or incident you wish to avoid.
Statistics have proven that, while driving, our society over the years has become distracted by things outside of what is on the road, hence the term “distracted driving.” Without this attention while driving, you lose vital reaction time to roadway hazards and the ability to protect yourself from them.
It has also been proven that you, as a distracted driver, become a hazard to pedestrians and other drivers. Paying attention is not the only issue that makes you a hazard. Sometimes people may not have quick enough reaction time or reflexes to prevent the incident. This again can lead to an inability to protect yourself and others from your driving. In either case, this could make you dangerous on the road.
I will be honest, there are companies and/or technicians who should not be working on vehicles – some by ignorance, some who don’t care.
Take that same thought process and think about that when repairing advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) electronics on a vehicle. A vehicle that was not calibrated or calibrated incorrectly creates the same hazards not only to the driver of the vehicle you repaired, but also other drivers and families on the road.
I hope this is a sobering thought to all who are reading this. I’ve heard people compare returning a vehicle that has not been calibrated correctly to a customer to giving the keys to an impaired driver. I know that may be extreme, but think about it. The vehicle reacts to what its “senses” are telling it. If those senses are impaired, the reaction to hazards will be wrong or a reaction will occur that should not have. We’ve already started seeing the consequences of these sensor impairments.
Changing Your Perspective
When a vehicle enters the repair stream, we must change our perspective on what we need to do to repair the vehicle. Knowing when a procedure such as an initialization or calibration should be done becomes much more serious to all of us.
An estimator or technician must think about what automakers are trying to achieve. Vehicles today are being given the ability to make decisions about environmental changes and challenges in roads. The battle to assist drivers when distracted or physically challenged and react to those hazards correctly is what ADAS is all about.
I’ve heard people compare returning a vehicle that has not been calibrated correctly to a customer to giving the keys to an impaired driver.
This is all being achieved with advancements in technology. For example, faster communication between computers and control modules with sensors that can see and almost feel the road, giving the vehicle almost human abilities to see and sense the road. They have given the vehicle eyes by using cameras and given it depth perception by using radar and lasers. Radar has also given vehicles an awareness of their surroundings. Parking sensors serve as fingers to feel around the vehicle. Algorithms today that are becoming more complex as far as how much information can be processed and what speed the vehicle can react to that information are increasing the use and growth of electronics in vehicles.
Our perspective in the repair industry needs to change. Just fixing the metal and paint is no longer the main focus of repairs; equally important is the electronics. Knowing when to do an electronic procedure in our industry and what procedure is needed is still a misinformed combination of assumptions and old-school thought. Educating yourself, your shop, repair partners and the vehicle owner to the vehicle’s electronic repair needs is as important as any other repair procedure you will do.
I commend the Collision Industry Electronic Commerce Association (CIECA) and ASE for recognizing the need to create a flow chart and certification for technicians and companies performing electronic repairs. To check out the CIECA standard, visit cieca.com.
When to Research
We still find ourselves arguing if a pre-repair scan is needed or not (it is). How do we know when an initialization or calibration is needed? Where do I find that information? What do I do? What equipment is needed? How much time?
We also have learned that the dealers who sell the vehicles are not helping. That’s a whole other article, and it adds to the list of questions. Who do I trust to give me correct information or to do the procedure correctly? I will be honest, there are companies and/or technicians who should not be working on vehicles – some by ignorance, some who don’t care. You better know who you’re trusting to do the work on your customers’ vehicles. You’re betting their lives and other people’s lives on it. This is why research into the procedures needed to complete repairs correctly is a critical aspect of all repairs.
Just fixing the metal and paint is no longer the main focus of repairs.
Here is the abbreviated version of the first steps to take with vehicle electronics:
- Pre-scan the vehicle.
- Identify ADAS features.
- Identify repair procedures of vehicle physical damage.
- Identify procedures for parts being replaced, such as sensors and control modules.
- Post-scan the vehicle when complete.
- Test drive or drive cycle to activate all systems on the roadway. Verify operation.
- Check for reoccurring codes.
I could write a whole article on each one of these steps, but I’m going to break it down to just ADAS features for this story.
We all need to be able to identify ADAS features in vehicles. I have not found any magical universal device code or system yet that will identify accurately by VIN every ADAS feature in a vehicle. If there is one, please let me know about it. Until then, we will have to physically look at the vehicle and identify all of the components. Once we have identified ADAS features on the vehicle, we can break down if calibrations will be needed to correctly complete repairs. There are three general things to consider:
Connectivity. Any time the connectivity between a sensor and module or module to computer is severed, you need to document if a calibration is called for or not. This could be from a cut or crushed wire to a damaged connector to just unplugging the connector. Any time a connection is interrupted, the vehicle needs to verify that the sensor is working correctly. The most common reason for failed calibrations is the sensor did not get plugged in or did not get plugged in correctly. Sensors often get put in wrong locations or upside down. It is not just about replacing parts; it is also about human error or environmental variables.
Angle. What will be done that could possibly change the sensors or component angle? What happens when you change a sensor one degree? Aim a laser at a wall 20 feet away, then place a business card under that laser pointer, tilting it. You will see the dot move. Now, picture 100 meters down the road. That sensor is now aimed at a bridge deck or the lane of approaching traffic. This is also true of cameras and radars. One degree may be enough where the child walking in the street is not identified or the motorcycle in your blind spot is missed. One degree may not sound like much to you but, in the world of electronics, one degree means a great deal.
The vehicle electronics assume the sensors are correct in the way they “see” or operate. The vehicle cannot tell you that a bracket is bent. A calibration can be successful to an incorrect angle due to the fact that, in some cases, a calibration is a relearning process. You are identifying with a target where the center or specific point is to the vehicle’s algorithm in the computer. If you’re wrong, so is the algorithm. This becomes crucial when the structure of the vehicle is bent or damaged. Any frame straightening or pulling of the structure that would change the angle must be considered. This must also be considered when replacing a quarter panel or radiator support. Any procedure that removes, replaces or has a possibility of changing the angle may require a calibration.
R&I procedure. Removing and installing the part in which the sensor is mounted could change the angle. A bumper R&I or even removing a camera and reattaching it without disconnecting the connector would require a calibration. Why? Because you may have changed the angle when attaching that bumper or camera. It’s not about if you did change the angle; it’s about the possibility that you did. We need to verify that it did not change. A sensor that is impaired by an incorrect angle can have many consequences ranging from an unhappy customer to a catastrophe.
Attitude. No, we’re not talking about your attitude toward ADAS, we’re talking about the vehicle’s attitude to the roadway (datum plane). To do a calibration correctly, the vehicle and targets must be on the same datum plane. This is why vehicle manufacturers have guidelines on how to measure and verify that your floor is level. Failure to verify that the floor is level before completing the calibration creates the possibility of an impaired sensor operation.
This is the same for the ADAS to operate on the roadway. Many factors such as pitch of the vehicle as well as the yaw rate and vehicle ride height are factored in for sensors and computers to process information correctly. This is why you see some vehicle manufacturers require removing items of weight from cargo areas or have specifications on fuel requirements for calibration processes. These things can alter the pitch of the vehicle. Any damage, alterations or procedure that could or will change the vehicle’s pitch or yaw to the roadway may require a calibration. This explains why wheel alignments and suspension damage repair are a common requirement for calibration of crash avoidance ADAS components.
Shops should be very concerned about vehicle modifications such as tires and lift kits and modified bumpers when trying to complete repairs correctly. Toyota has a document (Toyota TSB T-SB-0026-20) that states when lift kits are added to certain models, the ADAS features affected should be permanently disabled. This requires notification of the customer and a signed document. What happens when ADAS becomes required in all vehicles?
I see so many “mobile” companies doing procedures in parking lots or driveways. The ADAS features are a serious concern to all of us in the collision repair industry. These features take control of vehicle systems such as emergency automatic braking or EAB. Not calibrating a vehicle to manufacturer specifications is no laughing matter. Remember, you can have a successful calibration, but because you did not know the correct procedure, that calibration could be dead wrong.
But Wait, There’s More
There are so many more factors to address here, but I can only offer guidelines on what to do. Each vehicle manufacturer does things differently and changes the game every day. You must look up procedures for every vehicle to perform repairs correctly. Assuming the process to repair a vehicle from one year to the next is the same, or even is the same for all models from one manufacturer, can be wrong. Initializations and programming will also be a part of collision repair facilities’ future as replacing components will always occur during collision repairs. One thing you need to know: there is only one set of rules to follow for any vehicle repair, and that is the guidelines of the manufacturers themselves.
Mitch Becker has been a collision industry trainer for 30 years. He can be reached at (612) 865-6229 or [email protected].